Ojai, Ca is 13 miles from Rte. 101 and a galaxy away from the rest of Southern California. There are a few special places in Ojai to enjoy a good meal, but none so embodies the spirit, the ambiance, even the fragrances of this wonderful little town as the Ranch House Restaurant. Seated on the porch, next to the organic garden, whiffs of lilac, lavendar and orange blossom transport the diner to a state of mind in which everything is allll right..... On Friday I returned to the Ranch House to catch up with an old friend over an unhurried dinner. The first thing that happens is that the sommelier, Michael Denny, comes by with a vast and marvelous wine list. If you pride yourself on picking just the right thing, you'll love this list. And I'm no slouch, but I've learned to tell Michael my mood, a price range, and any other hints that might describe what will be right for the night--and he goes into his remarkable wine cellar and brings back something delicious. If you ask him (as is the custom with a great sommelier) to share a bit of the wine with you (a bottle my dears, not a glass), you will also learn a good deal about that wine. Moving on to dinner: the menu rarely changes. This drives some people crazy. And though I like a good avant garde restaurant as much as the next person, the Ranch House gives me a place to relax, no surprises, just a welcoming setting for a great, dependable meal. I'm trying to only eat half of my portions these days (we all eat too much); but I confess, the other night I devoured the rack of lamb that was perfectly prepared. (And I can promise the scallops are equally fine). And though their desserts are all lovely--the New Orleans Merengue is the only dessert I ever order. Once you've tried it you'll understand why.
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